herald

Friday 15 December 2017

Hope for 'swift return' of Ibrahim as Egypt trial verdict expected

Ibrahim Halawa has full backing of Katherine Zappone
Ibrahim Halawa has full backing of Katherine Zappone

Children's Minister Katherine Zappone has said she hopes the verdict in the Ibrahim Halawa case will pave the way for his "swift return home".

A major diplomatic effort to secure the Dublin student's return to Ireland will swing into action if, as expected, the final verdict is delivered by an Egyptian court today.

Ibrahim (21), from Tallaght, was jailed after he was arrested during the 2013 protests against the ousting of former president Mohammed Morsi.

Since then, numerous court hearings have been adjourned, prompting widespread criticism of the length of time he has been held without trial.

There have been concerns for his health, especially during several hunger strikes.

A verdict in the case is expected today.

Ms Zappone was in touch with Ibrahim's family over the weekend.

"My thoughts, prayers and solidarity are with Ibrahim, his family and the thousands who have campaigned on his behalf," she said.

She praised the resilience of the Halawa family in their campaign of vigils and meetings with senior government figures.

"As their local TD, I will be watching and hoping that the verdict will pave the way for Ibrahim's swift return home," said Ms Zappone.

She said she will work with his family, legal team and government colleagues to ensure that supports are put in place for his return.

Priority

"His health, psychological and social requirements must be assessed as a priority and support offered," said the minister.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar will speak with Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi by phone to ask that Ibrahim be allowed to return to Ireland after the trial.

Speaking at the weekend, Mr Varadkar said it is his hope and expectation that Ibrahim will be sent home when the court proceedings end.

"Certainly, the Government is very keen to ensure that Ibrahim Halawa can return to Ireland as soon as possible," he said.

"The Egyptian government has always said that it cannot interfere in a trial in the same way that an Irish government cannot interfere in the court process.

"We will do everything we can to enable him to come home."

It is hoped that Ibrahim could be back in Ireland "within weeks".

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